Peggy Bowes: Don't take a vacation from your Sunday obligation
Summer is finally here, so let the vacation planning begin! Airline tickets: check. Hotel and rental car reservations: check. Bags packed and ready to go: check. Catholic church selected near our destination and appropriate clothes packed: huh?
Part of the fun of traveling is the unique opportunity to visit new parishes, explore different church architecture styles and artwork, or perhaps attend a Mass spoken in a different language. My family traveled in an RV for more than four years, and we visited a wide variety of Catholic churches. We've seen shrines, basilicas, missions, Revolutionary-era chapels and modern "mega churches." We heard Mass in Spanish in San Antonio, in Latin in South Dakota, and a unique gospel-style Mass in New Orleans. Sometimes the church we chose was a magnificent cathedral in the heart of New York City, other times it was a small chapel tucked into the forest at Big Bear Lake in California. We've even planned visits to churches which interest us, such as the Missions in California, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and the Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio.
Vacations should be fun and relaxing, but it's important to remember that our Sunday Mass obligation does not disappear simply because we are not in our home parish. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin." (CCC 2181)
It is not difficult to locate a church in an unfamiliar city. No matter how remote our location, I was almost always able to find at least one Catholic church within 10 miles. I used MassTimes.org and Google Maps to find the closest church. It's a good idea to check the parish's Web site or call the office to verify the Mass schedule. We once arrived at an empty parking lot because the evening Mass was canceled for the annual picnic! Give yourself extra time to find the church, as directions aren't always clear or accurate.
Occasionally, we had to drive a bit out of our way or get up early, but I feel it's important that my children know that Sunday Mass is not optional. Although we make an adventure out of visiting new churches, I stress the importance of keeping the Third Commandment. Of course, there are exceptions, such as camping in the wilderness or going on a cruise at sea, but planning ahead can eliminate most if not all of such conflicts.
This summer, add "find a church" to your vacation planning checklist. "Whoever observes the day, observes it for the Lord." (Romans 14:6)
Peggy Bowes is a member of Holy Angels Church in Mt. Airy and the author of "The Rosary Workout" (www.rosaryworkout.com).
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy